The most sumptuous new place to stay in Battambang is Bric-à-Brac, a stunning three-room boutique bed and breakfast, design showroom, and bar located in the heart of the city just two blocks from the river. Owners Robert Carmack, an American food writer, and Morrison Polkinghorne, an Australian textile designer, have spared no expense in kitting out the three large and ludicrously high-ceilinged rooms with plush antiques and delightful second-hand finds from across the globe, spanning decades and styles, with a maximalist mix-and-match approach that is as genuine as it is gorgeous.
The Coloniale room celebrates the design sensibility of French Indochina, with original tilework floors and period furnishings. A mosquito net is draped over the bed with some of Morrison’s own handmade tassels, and hidden in a side table drawer are a set of slides from the owners’ travels in Cambodia. The Indochine’s textured pink grasscloth walls are a marvel, and the desk sourced from a local school. We were especially delighted by the Khmer graffiti in the spacious bathroom. Meanwhile, the Orientale features a spectacular carved Chinese matrimonial bed and Meiji-era screen.
Newly opened in November 2014, the owners undertook renovations with care, restoring, preserving, and otherwise highlighting original elements like tile, plasterwork, and the red wrought iron window coverings. There is an element of beautiful decay here — or what the Japanese might call wabi-sabi — and along with the textiles and furnishings it’s a feast of texture and color for the senses.
Even if you’re not staying at Bric-à-Brac, be sure to spend some time at the Libations Bar, an open kitchen with a small but thoughtful wine list, spirits, coffee, and cocktail nibbles. We enjoyed a Côte de Provence rosé with the housemade pork rillettes, which came with slices of baguette, pickled bamboo, and olives. Settle yourself into a wicker chair and watch the Battambang street life roll lazily by as you sip your drink. And stop in at the design showroom, where the duo displays goodies from their travels around the world, including pillows of antique Irish linen hand-embroidered with Burmese days of the week. If you’re lucky, Morrison will be behind the loom he built himself on site.
Rooms come with aircon, a continental breakfast tray, daily water, free WiFi, and ensuite bathrooms with hot shower, and semi-private balconies overlooking the street. Rack rates are listed at $125 per night, bookable on Agoda. If you’re willing to risk it, walk-ins get a more favorable rate. The bar and shop are closed Mondays.